Book Title: Pagan Warrior
Series: The Seventh Century
Author: MJ Porter
Publication Date: 25th May 2015 (new cover from January 2022)
Publisher: MJ Publishing
Page Length: 294
Genre: Historical fiction/Action and adventure
Audiobook narrated by Matt Coles
From bestselling author, MJ Porter comes the tale of the mighty pagan king, Penda of Mercia.
Penda, a warrior of immense renown, has much to prove if he is to rule the Mercian kingdom of his dead father and prevent the neighbouring king of Northumbria from claiming it. Unexpectedly allying with the British kings, Penda races to battle the alliance of the Northumbrian king, unsure if his brother stands with him or against him as they seek battle glory for themselves, and the right to rule gained through bloody conquest. There will be a victor and a bloody loser, and a king will rise from the ashes of the great and terrible battle of Hædfeld.
Universal Link: books2read.com/PaganWarrior
MJ Porter is the author of many historical novels set predominantly in Seventh to Eleventh-Century England, as well as three twentieth-century mysteries. Being raised in the shadow of a building that was believed to house the bones of long-dead Kings of Mercia, meant that the author's writing destiny was set.
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Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/MJ-Porter/e/B006N8K6X4/
Narrator, Matt Coles:
In which Penda and Cadwallon first come to an agreement about facing Edwin of Northumbria.
AD630 - Penda of Mercia
The (exiled) Court of Cadwallon of Gwynedd, Priestholm
I still haven’t decided what I think of Cadwallon. He seems to be both kingly and not kingly all at the same time. He comes with everything a king should have apart from confidence. Perhaps Edwin’s defeat did more than send him running with his tail between his legs? Maybe it made him forget what it means to be kingly?
Either way, this potential alliance can be used to my advantage. I’d do well to have a sturdy ally. Someone who, whether he realises it or not, is considered a king worthy of emulation by many men. What Cadwallon has, others desire. The fact that he still holds much of his lands, despite his failure, is proof of the loyalty of his men. And that he inspires fear in others. They’ve not come to make good on his humiliation. That intrigues me.
I could have come as an enemy. Ridden roughshod over this weak king, but I didn’t realise how enfeebled he was. Now that I’ve met him, I’d rather call him a friend than an enemy. My anger at his messenger has dissipated. I’m far more intrigued by what he plans than my initial fury let me think.
His reputation, combined with the success that I’ll bring to our endeavour, will ensure we’re both regarded as the highest of kings, the most distinguished of warriors. We’ll be men to be feared. We’ll be united in our purpose.
Food is brought and placed before us. I appraise it carefully. It seems to be good beef, dripping with its juices. I eat it eagerly, and Cadwallon watches my face with interest, grinning when I swallow the food quickly and reach for more.
‘It’s my favourite,’ he offers by way of an explanation. ‘My wife knows the recipe, the herbs, the exact way it must be cooked. She keeps it a secret from everyone. She says she’ll always claim my stomach that way.’
I nod in delight at the strange little tale. I’ve not yet taken a wife. I don’t much know if I want one. I like variety in my bed.
‘Do you not demand that she tells you?’ I ask around a mouthful of the delicious meat.
‘Where would the pleasure be in that?’ he asks. I start to understand him a little more. He prefers to be taunted, have things held away from him. He likes to strive to accomplish the things he achieves. He doesn’t want everything to be easy. I’m pleased. What we have planned won’t be easy. Provided we both try for it, dream of it, desire it, we’ll accomplish what we want. Edwin’s death, and possibly my brother’s as well. If that’s not too much for which to hope. If my brother, as I imagine he will, becomes a problem instead of a stubborn thorn in my finger to be born, his death will become imperative.
‘You’ll join with me in forcing King Edwin back from my lands?’ Cadwallon asks the question that must have been burning his mouth with the desire to ask it. That’s why it’s taken me two weeks to get here. I’ve avoided as many of Edwin’s warriors as possible and then taken a ship to the island of Priestholm, where Cadwallon is regrouping. Edwin’s men scour the land. I know they didn’t chase Cadwallon from the battlefield, but they hunt for him now.
Edwin also likes to make things difficult for himself.
I believe he’s realised his mistake in letting him go.
The bloody idiot.
‘I will, my lord. We scouted where we could on our way here. I assume you also know where Edwin’s men are based.’
Cadwallon chuckles at my formal response. My words mask my love of slaying my enemies and decapitating any who step in my way.
‘First, we’ll take back Mon, and then the land of the Britons. Once they’re gone from there.’
‘And the land of the Middle Angles,’ I interject quickly. I don’t want to send Edwin’s warriors their way. There are many amongst the Middle Angles, as we Saxons call the new kingdom, I call family and friends.
‘Yes, or, we can send them further north, to Chester and then they’ll be almost within their kingdom.’
‘That would be best,’ I concur, and he grins at me.
‘You have designs on the Middle Angles?’ he queries. I shrug. It’s not really any of his concern whether I do or not.
‘I’m barely even a prince yet, let alone a king,’ I say. My words make him laugh, his hand hitting the table loudly. His delight shocks me.
‘Penda, there’s no need to hide your pretensions from me. I don’t want the land of the Middle Angles. I just want bloody King Edwin dead and gone.’
‘You don’t wish to be an over king like Edwin or Rædwald before him?’ I demand, confused, and not enjoying it.
‘No, I don’t. I mean, don’t misunderstand me, if I could be, then I would. If all the kings and war leaders dropped dead, then I’d be king there. But I don’t look for it. Why would I?’
‘I want scops to compose poems of my battle prowess, to tell tales of me, fill the heads of foolish young warriors with my name.’
Cadwallon raises his drinking horn to my words, his merriment gone.
‘I want the same, and I, you’ll be pleased to know, already have scops who can do that for you.’
I almost smirk at that, but I stop myself. I’m a bloody warrior, not a tittering child.
‘One day, I’ll have scops,’ I say instead, maintaining my façade of the mighty warrior.
‘You will, my Lord Penda, you will.’
I’ve never yet heard my name with ‘Lord’ preceding it. I like that, and Cadwallon, damn the man, knows it as well. I try to cover my brief flare of joy, but he’s laughing again, not at me but with me, and I join him.
I like Cadwallon, I decide at that moment. I might not be his equal yet, but I will be.